No one who has visited the medieval town of Skara can have failed to catch a glimpse of Skara Cathedral. Skara diocese is the oldest in Sweden and the cathedral is one of the largest and oldest cathedrals in Sweden. There must have been a church on the site perhaps as early as the 11th century. As evidenced by the archaeological discoveries at Varnhem Abbey Church and Kata Farm, it was here in Västergötland that Christianity first took hold.
However, the present sandstone church building dates from the 12th century, although it has been radically rebuilt several times since then.
Former wooden church
Skara Cathedral is dedicated to St Mary and a wooden cathedral was built on the site as early as the 11th century. Nothing remains of it, but its crypt, which served as the burial place of a bishop, can still be seen under the church.
Parts of the sandstone cathedral that replaced the wooden church sometime in the 12th century are preserved in the western twin towers and in the form of three walled reliefs depicting Adam and Eve, Pope Gregory and part of the legend of St. Stephen.
During the Middle Ages, Skara was a large town with 900 inhabitants and a central place for both the royal power and the church. During this time the church was radically rebuilt and began to take on the mighty appearance it has today with a high nave.
The church has suffered several major fires followed by extensive renovations. In the late 14th century, but also in 1566, when the Danes ravaged the town, and in 1719 and the early 20th century, the church burned. However, the most extensive reconstruction was not caused by a fire but by Helgo Zettervall, who wanted to restore the church to its Gothic style during the 1880s and 1890s. This resulted in a Gothic cathedral that was probably excessive compared to what was on the site in the Middle Ages. Although there have been a number of alterations since then, including after the fire in the early 1940s, Skara Cathedral is a magnificent cathedral well worth a visit.
High towers, magnificent tombs, crypts and treasures
In the church you will find a magnificent marble and alabaster tomb built in 1636, the so-called Soop tomb. There is also a medieval crypt and a “treasure chamber” with several unique treasures. The beautiful glass windows in the church are made by Bo Beskow.
Skara Cathedral is located in Skara 11 km from Valle Camping (12 min by car, 37 min by bike). The church is open almost daily for visitors, but keep in mind that it is a living parish church and there may be services as well as weddings, baptisms and funerals here. Visit the website of Skara Cathedral to see current opening hours, guided tours and more.